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Keywords:

  • Africa;
  • empiricism;
  • health inequalities;
  • hermeneutics;
  • poverty;
  • socioeconomic status indicators

Abstract

Several indicators of socioeconomic status have been applied by researchers in the analysis of inequalities and poverty in Africa. Inconsistent results from these applications raise concerns about their appropriateness in ranking households and communities in African contexts. This paper reviews the epistemological assumptions underlying those indicators and shows why they may not be fitted to the African social conditions. It suggests a hermeneutical approach based on community self knowledge that facilitates the social ranking of households and individuals on the basis of how they are inserted into the social power relations that determine their socioeconomic status. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.